PTSD Related Conditions Self-Destructive Behaviors in PTSD By Matthew Tull, PhD Matthew Tull, PhD Twitter Matthew Tull, PhD is a professor of psychology at the University of Toledo, specializing in post-traumatic stress disorder. Learn about our editorial process Updated on January 28, 2021 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Akeem Marsh, MD Medically reviewed by Akeem Marsh, MD LinkedIn Twitter Akeem Marsh, MD, is a board-certified child, adolescent, and adult psychiatrist who has dedicated his career to working with medically underserved communities. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print People with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may be at heightened risk to engage in a number of different self-destructive behaviors. When you think about the symptoms of PTSD, this makes a lot of sense. People with PTSD experience very strong, frequent, and unpleasant emotions and thoughts, which may increase the likelihood that they will rely on unhealthy coping strategies, such as deliberate self-harm or substance misuse. Although these behaviors may reduce distress in the moment, they have many long-term negative consequences. PTSD symptoms may start within three months of a traumatic event, but sometimes symptoms don't appear until years after the event. These symptoms cause significant problems in social or work situations and in relationships. The following self-destructive behaviors often go hand-in-hand with the symptoms of PTSD. Seb Oliver / Cultura / Getty Images 1 Deliberate Self-Harm People with PTSD may be more likely to engage in self-injurious behaviors, such as cutting or burning themselves, as a way of managing intense and unpleasant emotions. Before you can stop engaging in self-injurious behavior, it's important to first learn why it might have developed. Forms of Self-Harm Common in People With PTSD 2 Alcohol and Drug Misuse Various studies have looked at rates of alcohol and drug misuse among people with PTSD. These studies have found that individuals with PTSD are at greater risk of developing substance use problems than people without PTSD. PTSD and Alcohol and Drug Use 3 Smoking Approximately 34 million adults in the United States currently smoke, and it has been found that people with PTSD may be more likely to smoke than people without PTSD. 4 Unhealthy Eating Behaviors People with PTSD have been found to be at higher risk for eating disorders and unhealthy eating behaviors. For example, people with PTSD may restrict their food intake or may engage in binge eating. PTSD and Eating Disorders 5 Suicide People who have experienced a traumatic event may be more likely to attempt suicide. If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911. For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database. Connection Between PTSD and Suicide How to Help a Loved With Suicidal Thoughts When someone you care for is experiencing suicidal thoughts, it can be a very frightening experience. You may not know what to do to help your loved one, but you can be prepared. What to Say to Someone Who Is Suicidal 5 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Hagenaars M, Fisch I, van Minnen A. The effect of trauma onset and frequency on PTSD-associated symptoms. J Affect Disord. 2011;132(1-2):192-199. doi:10.1016/j.jad.2011.02.017 Briere J, Eadie E. Compensatory self-injury: Posttraumatic stress, depression, and the role of dissociation. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy. 2016;8(5):618-625. doi:10.1037/tra0000139 McDevitt-Murphy M, Murphy J, Monahan C, Flood A, Weathers F. Unique Patterns of Substance Misuse Associated With PTSD, Depression, and Social Phobia. J Dual Diagn. 2010;6(2):94-110. doi:10.1080/15504261003701445 Current cigarette smoking among adults in the United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Tagay S, Schlegl S, Senf W. Traumatic events, posttraumatic stress symptomatology and somatoform symptoms in eating disorder patients. European Eating Disorders Review. 2010;18(2):124-132. doi:10.1002/erv.972 By Matthew Tull, PhD Matthew Tull, PhD is a professor of psychology at the University of Toledo, specializing in post-traumatic stress disorder. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Speak to a Therapist for PTSD Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.